Statement from Lapworth Architects

As expected with the proposed development on Great Barr Hall we have already seen a healthy debate ensure from it.

The latest contribution is from the architects – Lapworth. This is in the form of a reply to many of the points brought up by the Beacon Action Group and they call it a community benefit statement.

LINK

In all this debate it has to be remembered that this land is now and has been for a while private land. The current owners are not under an obligation to provide a community asset as some want and the council can not enforce this.

I am minded towards this development and the statement linked above does mean my position has probably strengthened towards agreeing to it (not that it is my decision !).

If you could leave comments that would be good as all feedback is being collated by the relevant people.

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32 thoughts on “Statement from Lapworth Architects

  1. Whilst the land is now privately owned it was bought knowingly as protected greenbelt, the openness of which belongs to the public. The only legal way of building on the public’s greenbelt, is by an enabling development to restore a heritage asset. It is not the right of the current owners to build on greenbelt, they have to prove that the benefit of the restoration of Great Barr Hall is greater than the dis-benefit to the local community of losing this protected green belt, open space and rural character of this site. The new owners in my opinion are exploiting English Heritage policy in order to enable them to build their millionaire villa’s and make money from an adorned replica of the now derelict Great Barr Hall.

    Let’s not forget and is mentioned in the planning application, they are only retaining two walls of this supposed historic asset. These two walls will be a minute element of the proposed massive extension (almost two thirds bigger than the original footprint of the hall) that will be built at the rear to incorporate a banqueting suite, with 40 tables, each with 12 seats, so a capacity of 500! This combined with the restaurant, ground floor conference rooms, 10 bedrooms and only 50 car parking spaces, will have huge traffic implications for Chapel Lane, which i would like to remind everyone is a country lane.

    I ask the question, is the proposed replica really the minimum needed to restore the Hall? No. This is a money making scheme, which will rob local people of the open space (note – not access), but protected greenbelt and historic parkland, which is a huge dis-benefit to the public.

    The patronising tone of the document published today by Lapworth Architects, suggests we should be grateful for their magnanimous gesture to ‘allow the public to enjoy its abundance of delights’, i would like to remind everyone it is not their right to build on the greenbelt land that they now own.

  2. Hello Claire,
    Excellent posts. I’m sure that a majority of local residents from Chapel Lane, Coronation Road, The Grove, Merrions Close, Pheasey/Park Farm and Nether Hall Park will concur fully with the views that you’ve expressed.

  3. Claire I am very impressed by your post and if what you are saying is correct then the proposal should be thrown out even before it gets to waste the time of the council planning committee. If what you say is correct, then how anyone can support the proposal?

  4. Hi Paul I can confirm that the only legal way of building on the public’s greenbelt, is by an enabling development to restore a heritage asset. It is not the right of the current owners to build on greenbelt, they have to prove that the benefit of the restoration of Great Barr Hall is greater than the dis-benefit to the local community of losing this protected green belt, open space and rural character of this site. The new owners in my opinion are exploiting English Heritage policy.

    Generally green belt land is protected from development whoever owns it. The issue here is that the owners want to develop in the green belt to provide a private and secluded high cost housing estate for themselves. To enable them to achieve this they are using the restoration of the hall and parkland as the financial reason to build 59 dwellings.

    Take a look at the English Heritage Document on enabling development
    http://www.english-heritage.org.uk/publications/enabling-development-and-the-conservation-of-significant-places/
    See – the foreward
    Page 5 -the policy in the introduction
    Section 3.5.1 -This section describes how green belt belongs to the public
    “Enabling development is often seen as a being an alternative to public funding………… The essential difference is that the community pays in kind which is converted into cash”
    i.e the money the owners raise from the housing to fund the restoration.

    This exchange is only advised if the benefit to the public outweighs the disbenefits i.e giving up the green belt and losing the open space in return for something. At present the only people to benefit are the owners from their luxury mansions and huge wedding/conference centre business they are building. I don’t want the public to give up the open space and protected green belt I enjoy for that! The owners don’t want to restore Great Barr Hall for prosperity they want to exploit it so they can build a gated residence for themselves and steal what is currently the public’s green belt.

  5. And Claire you are of course spot on with why they would be allowed to build.

    So if you say no housing at all the listed Hall and gardens can never be restored can they ?

    Is that the price you are willing to pay ?

    Both Steve and Paul refuse to come up with any kind of alternative plan as you may have read. The only conclusion is that if you wish for no house building at all then there is no other alternative for the hall.

    Is that fair to say that is you position ?

    ps. it is not and never has been the ‘public’s green belt’.

  6. Hi Claire, like yourself, Paul, myself and many of our friends and neighbours do not wish to see any more of our wonderful local green belt bricked, glazed, tiled, concreted and tarmaced over. At present Ian is the one and only individual in Pheasey/Park Farm in favour of this appalling application. There are perhaps 3 or 4 residents from Nether Hall Park supporting the proposal, with not a single person that i’m aware of from Chapel Lane, Coronation Road, The Grove or Merrions Close in favour of having yet another 57 houses dumped in Great Barr Park.

    • for once Steve, answer the question I asked of Claire eh ?

      Forget the multiple repeating of yourself and please confirm if you want no houses built you are prepared to let the listed area fall into total ruin ?

      Monsy is not coming from anywhere else to rescue it, the last hope are the plans as unveiled, there is no alternative to them (apart from adjustments to them).

  7. Ian, you are a fine one for demanding Steve answer your question for once, when you fail to answer plenty your self! Which one of you is the kettle and who is the pot?

    Why should Steve, Claire, I or anyone for that matter have to come up with an alternative just because we oppose something? It is not our prerogative to do so but the owners of the property to do that.

    I will give you an alternative to this proposal(not that i particularly like the idea even if it is mine), what about they build a quarter of the houses and borrow the rest of the money based on the profits that their hotel, wedding, conference centre will make? If the bank will not lend it them then there will be a good reason for their refusal – Like perhaps the business is not a viable proposition.

    How about another one – They go and build 500 houses on a brownfield site somewhere else and use the profits to renovate the hall and park?

    How about they stop dreaming of something that they have not got the money for and sell up? Then they could buy an old factory unit and turn it in to a conference and banqueting centre.

    This proposal is using green belt and listed buildings to finance a business proposal, how can that be right, respectful or good for Great Barr?

  8. Hi Paul, as you correctly intimate there are growing concerns that the people that have dreamt up and lodged this application appear to have very limited funds themselves to initially put into their money making idea. If Walsall MBC were to be crazy enough to grant approval and things then went badly wrong with the scheme, then that would certainly reflect very badly indeed on the ‘currently’ FibCon run council; which is probably why Ian, a Euro-Labour Party member and activist and other Euro-Labour supporters from areas such as Brownhills appear to be supporting the application.

    • which person from Brownhiils then ?

      And what the heck has politics got to do with this ?

      Oh Paul, everyone knows this application is not about making money, if it was the application would have more than 100 houses on it not the 57. Yes the owners want somewhere to live but part of the eal is to restore the hall, thats the deal.

      • Oh Ian, you are very very naive if you think it is not a money spinner! The end result will be a profitable business, to say the least and that is without taking in to account the figures mentioned here about the possible profit from the building in the first place.

      • So Paul are you against people making money ?

        I have said time and time again for me the motivation is the restoration of the hall and the land. Do you forget someone has to pay for the Lake to be repaired because if not that will flood and cause massive problems for residents especially on the Queslett Road.

        your option is a do nothing option, fine then please just accept the consequences of that on the estate, residents of Netherhall etc.

  9. Paul

    me and u had both prev agreed to look into options so can’t really blame Ian for asking the question.

    Steve

    I regularly see the owners driving around in expensive cars however in this day and age doesn’t really mean anything. could all be finance ie 299 per month?

    Ian – even u have to agree all three of us have examined the application in detail and see the owners walking away with huge profits. clearly they got the land cheap I heard 700 thousand and for that they get a hall and free house?

    is this fair?

    • Tell me how that make huge profits please ?

      Just 54 homes for sale and the renovation of the hall, gardens and the lake (if work not done on the lake it will collapse ), so how do you work out a big profit ?

    • Forgot to answer your last point. I think the sale was for £750K and yes for what they got it was a bargain, however that was the market value. Remember it was originally put up for sale at £1.5M and no takers so the price lowered as in any business transaction.

  10. Ian

    u do the math say 400000 profit from each mansion which is 28 million across all 57 minus the say 5 million to repair seems a tidy sum.

    even if my figures are out x2 so only 200000 per mansion still 14 million -5 = 9 million profit and a free house.

    not bad hey!

    • they are not mansions, would probably sell for 400-500K and then take away the building costs etc …

      Do you think the rebuilding of the hall, restoration of the land and lakes and all other works will only cost £5M ?

  11. Hi Ian, it hadn’t gone unnoticed that you took down the column of Twitter messages/comments that have usually sat at the top right hand side of the site, at around 8.30pm on Sunday evening. Which individual from Brownhills? Well put that run of Tweets back up that you removed exactly as they were at the time you took them down. Paul is on Twitter so he probably viewed them and can no doubt find them again should you choose not to display them once more. What has politics to do with this – or any other planning application for that matter? A fair amount i’d say. Hi PK – yes i agree with you, this application is all about making money, nothing more. If the people behind the proposal attempted to get away with dumping 100 houses in Great Barr Park then i’d guess that there would be even more chance of this rotton scheme being rejected out of hand by Walsall MBC.

    • what are you on about ?

      I changed the design on the site and dropped that widget from it as it was too cluttered. The twitter stream is still available and no tweets have been deleted and open to the public. I believe the tweets will fairly reflect what I type on here.

      If you are on about Brownhills Bob then he is NOT a labour person, not in the slightest, not that it matters does it ?

      you have people from all the political spectrum minded to support the scheme and also against it so it is not political and certainly nothing to do with Europe.

  12. Hi Ian, er no; we do not have people from across the political spectrum supporting the planning application. To date only about 4 or 5 local individuals are in favour of the proposal. 3 or 4 residents from Nether Hall Park, none of whom have expressed any political views whatsoever thus far – and yourself, a Euro-Labour Party member.
    The only political party members opposing the scheme are all (to date) from UKIP and the English Democrats that i know to.
    When on earth did i mention that this planning application had anything to do with Europe?????????????????

  13. To the three of you, have you read all the docs in the planning. I have done and there is this statement

    What is clear is that there is a short fall in the Enabling Works generated in relation to
    the total agreed costs. It is also clear that there are no other acceptable locations for
    any enabling development within the application site and as a result there is a deficit.
    The applicants are aware of this and have confirmed that they are prepared to find the
    deficit.

    Now you may think that this is a lie but I have had it confirmed indepently that this is the case. In fact the number of homes to fully fund it would have been nearer 80. Of course over the years they would expect the Hall/Hotel/Conference centre to make money but to claim there is a profit is simply wrong.

  14. Ian if labour did play politics then I think that would be very sad. We all deserve more from politicians and a commitment to not play games with something as important as this. Same should b demanded from all parties.

    I have again been reviewing the application. There is no breakdown of costs this is required.

    The owners should provide full disclosure on

    A) what they brought hall for
    B) what they have spent to date
    C) what full cost of work is with a full breakdown of everything separately and fully itemised
    D) full breakdown of build for houses for everyone as they all seem diffent
    E) sale pprojectiom ie what will each house sell for

    Gents i think if we had every bit of thatbdetail itwould be clear exactly how much profit is being made and then and onlynthen can thentrue impact on everyone and land be determined….

    so far we have nome of this? 

    • A statement will be sent out shortly from the Labour position PK. I will publish it on here and of course if other parties have a PR then they are of course welcome to the space.

  15. sorry forgot to add I am sure me Paul and Steve would all look at application if all this information was disclosed

    as would the beacon action group and their members.

    • as to the costs, this is a private development and they are under no reason to give costs. In fact the part I quoted was unnecessary to tell people.

      Maybe it would be good PR to do it but no one should expect it. I would say that from conversations I have had and I am sure Adrian Andrew has had I am very happy these people are genuine and not in it for a fast buck.

      I can understand the cynicism of some but there are good guys are out there you know. Look at Lapworth’s fantastic track record in architecture to see that they are not anything but professional.

      This is the BAG’s response to the Lapworth statement

      http://beaconactiongroup.wordpress.com/2014/01/15/beacon-action-group-responds-to-lapworth-architects-community-benefit-statement/

      On the cost point they mention the total cost of the project but they do not say the owners are not to be trusted, profiteering etc.

  16. Ian this is not about Lapworth architects and no one has issue with their record.

    I genuinely feel u adrian and Steve The beacon action group should jointly approach owners to get this information. Clearly a lot of us have serious concerns and most people are not against principle of development but more concerned about the number of houses. Have looked at beacon response they do talk about Minimum development being allowed they also state business enterprise is to big enterprise.

    The information imhave requested i feel will one way or another determine if the owners are the real deal.

    Would the four of u collectively or indiviudally be prepared to work towards getting this information put in the public domain?

    • Definitely yes.

      Have you seen Adrian’s comments on another post about this, I share those totally.

      As he said in negotiations there is a starting point for both sides and then you compromise.

      However look at Steve’s and Paul’s posts they say no development at all and I am sure they are not moving from that position. That postion is one I am totally against but I firmly hold their right to have it of course.

      Once we get a date for the BAG meeting then I will turn up and listen to what is said and report on it. However I would be willing to do as you suggested if needed. If you saw the Labour position (of course I am part of that) then we have made the pledge the work for the best outcome and represent people’s views in the process.

      Just a question PK are you from Netherhall I think you mentioned that ?

      What is the general feeling there as this development is largely hidden from you guys.

  17. Ian, Please! Read what i have said again before you make incorrect statements about my postings, I have actually implied that if an application was as English Heritage suggest it should be that i would then be more than happy to consider it.

    This application in it’s current form is NOT reasonable as far as i am concerned!

    I am a UKIP member yes, as well you know, however, I am not a Councillor or prospective candidate for UKIP in this ward. My views are pretty much aligned with the policy of UKIP as you would imagine but all the same they are my own views and the views of a resident and tax payer that resides in Pheasey Park Farm.

    I am sure that UKIP will accept your kind offer of posting a statement on here in the not too distant future.

    I also agree that this is a major issue for all residents of surrounding areas and should not become political, however, this is on the basis that all party’s consider all residents concerns and act accordingly. No one party should support this application for any other reason and should in turn fight it if a reasonable amount of people are unhappy with it.

    • Well Labour are not supporting any position as you have seen. We will as a party have a watching brief and take representations as they come. I have not mentioned parties at all apart from the known facts so I would rather keep it out to be honest. This si the only issue for example that could ever unite Adrian and myself !

      So it comes down to the endless discussion Paul and that is how do you do the restorations needed at the minimum of disruptions. If you trust what Lapworth’s say ( I certainly do based on their excellent track record) then the costs for this are NOT covered by the enabling development. If you remember I said at the time we knew there was 57 homes I could not understand how 57 homes could pay for it and it does not.

      I am sure in negotiations then the plans could be changed to help matters but I am behind the principle of the plans, you clearly are not.

      Are you aware that English Heritage have consulted and it appears are in agreement with the plans ?

      I have not seen anything to suggest otherwise.

  18. Hi Ian, yes, with regard to my stance on the application, you’re absolutely correct in stating that i am totally against it; and as you’re of course well aware, UKIP official party policy is to oppose all development within the United Kingdoms Green Belt areas.
    Just as you are of course free to support the application, Paul, as a local resident and homeowner with deep roots in our suburb and a member of UKIP, is also free to have his own opinions in regard of the proposal.

  19. Ian, as a current resident of the Pheasey, a person that grew up on the Pheasey and a person that hates the idea of even 1 square inch of our green belt being destroyed I will tell you how I personally feel. Now I will note that these are my personal views and not politically motivated whatsoever, they are also not official UKIP views. Simply put this is what I think, from the heart and on a purely personal level!

    I do not want any development, I do not want the disruption it brings and I certainly do not want to see any buildings planted on our very precious green belt, neither here or anywhere else in the UK for that matter. Chapel Lane is as it states on the tin, a country lane! It cannot now and never will be able to cope with the traffic that this development or any similar development will produce.

    The development will NEVER be the answer to the issues on Nether Hall, in fact i think it might make it worse not better. This development, if it gets the green light will give no benefit to the people of Great Barr. What is it the proposal states? “The horizon will be better for the people of Great Barr” or something like that. Well, I ask you, is that all the people of Great Barr deserve? Regardless of who owns the land the people of Great Barr deserve better.

    What is the answer? Well I simply have no idea, but it makes me so sad that we are in this position right now. Much like the situation we have in the UK with political parties arguing that we need 5 new cities, 3 new cities or X amount of millions of new houses and that we have to develop the green belt to achieve this. This I blame on the politicians over the last few decades. Where will it end? When we have no green belt but housing and commercial property covering our green and pleasant land? Where will we take our picnics then?

    The inability of our politicians to govern our country in a responsible manner and without worrying about their own bank accounts or careers has left not only Great Barr but the whole of our nation in such a mess.

    With regard to Great Barr Hall, I hold the health authority to blame along with the very people who held the purse strings and most likely forced them to let it fall in to disrepair. ABSOLUTELY DISGUSTING!!!!!!!

    We should not be in this position, the country should not be in this position, however, sadly we are. Why? well it can only be due to bad management. Those that are guilty know who they are and they will forever know that they have short changed their country. They may have their money, their career, they may be seen as honorable before their demise, they may be resting in peace, whatever they are or used to be, deep down they will know and understand that they have short changed their own country for self improvement.

    It makes my blood boil that we are in the position we are, it breaks my heart that we are destroying not only our heritage but our open space and that my great grand children will have but a few pictures and online pictorial of what i enjoyed as a child. This country is an island of beauty, country side and history, we are destroying it slowly but surely.

    Well, there you have it, my personal view, take it how you will.

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